Monday, October 26, 2009

Ayman Nour "Attacked" in Hurghada

Egyptian opposition figure Ayman Nour's troubles with the authorities continue. Over the weekend he was allegedly attacked by security forces and National Democratic Party operatives in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada. The linked report says he was at a restaurant with an American filmmaker, and the US may have intervened to free him.

Now that he's made himself the spokesman of the Stop Gamal movement, he'll be even more of as lightning rod drawing attention from the authorities.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

An apology from Ayman Nour

Ayman Nour

On Tuesday, October 27, Egyptian anti-succession dissidents will hold a press conference at the Center for Socialist Studies. The event will be sponsored by Opinion Prisoners Committee, headed by our colleague Mohamed Abdul Quddus. We will announce a common stance of support to freedoms and opinion Prisoners. In addition, we will explain to the public how this injustice is related to the catastrophe of the expected inheritance of the presidency in our country.

While thinking of my speech tomorrow, I feel an urgent need to apologize for my disability to help our brothers: opinion detainees and prisoners of conscience. On the top of the list are Magdy Ahmed Hussein, Gamal Heshmat, Mosa’ad Abu Fager, and a dozen other names! I think we owe an apology to every single detainee in Egypt, regardless of their affiliation or background. We owe an apology to every Egyptian citizen who was deprived his right to be interrogated by his natural judge as well as those who were sentenced by a “pre-adjusted” judge. We owe a double apology, though, to “civil” citizens who were put to trial by a “military” court. Regardless of the results, either reasonable or shocking, the procedures require an apology; not only to those prisoners and their families but also to every one who paid a heavy price for our disability to purify our country from this shameful injustice.

An Indian leader once said “the history witnessed that when tyranny increases, the authority cracks down on truth and freedom through using courts to remove away whoever stands for them! The might of the judiciary could be used, equally, for applying justice or injustice! Under a fair government, the judiciary would enhance justice and truth. Under an oppressive government, the judiciary would be the fatal machine of oppression and revenge! History tells us that court rooms have been, in many occasions, noxious stages for quiet brutality, even worse than the brutality of war. In battle fields and court rooms – alike – many innocent souls were lost and unlimited number of rights was taken!”

I think I owe a special apology on each day of the ten years I spent as Member of Parliament, for not condemning the dangerous gaps of our legislation, which allows for applying injustice under the fake mask of justice! I should have investigated the tricky texts of Egyptian law, which stand between a citizen and his natural judge. Such texts were and are still used to punish thinkers and intellectuals instead of criminals and murderers, who usually go without punishment or even sometimes without accountability.

From the same room which produced article 6 for Military Trials, which allows putting civilians to military tribunals, other unfair articles were produced, such as: article 9 of the Emergency Law 162/1958, which entitles the president of the state to transform the crimes punishable under public law to a “State Security Court.” Other examples include the December 13, 1953, decision of establishing Revolution Courts, and Law 344/ 1952 of establishing “Betrayal Courts,” followed by Values Court, Parties Court, etc. All are forms of tyranny and violations to citizen’s right to be tried by his natural judge.

Those laws are perfectly tailored to prevent citizens from recognizing their judge before being taken to court. Sometimes, the heads of courts commit an absolute violation of human rights by changing the geographical distribution of judges and provinces. The unfair law entitles them to send a particular case to some other province and judge. We suffer the worst form of justice administration in this country. The administration of justice is not related to the core concept of justice or the judiciary system. It is, however, a technical expression used by those interested in applying justice as a basic right to all.

Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Egypt is a signatory, stipulates the criteria for the fair administration of justice. ICCPR has become an integral part of Egyptian law since April 14, 1982. Yet, when a civil citizen is sent to a military tribunal, or loses his right to go through the different levels of trials; i.e. primary, appeal and cassation courts, thus investigating the rights guaranteed by such stipulation are useless.

We urgently need to re-build the whole system of justice administration in Egypt to guarantee the actual independence of prosecutor, separating the authority of transforming cases and the authority of investigation, removing exceptional judiciary, and using natural judges who are not usually selected upon mere rules of the blinded justice.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Egypt: 29 years between a president and his heir

Ayman Nour

President Mubarak made his first Presidential oath on October 14, 1981. He swore to observe the interests of the country. He said “I” and did not mention “I and my son after me” in his oath. Three days ago, Mubarak completed his 29th year as president of Egypt. Let’s, then, qualify the statuesque in Egypt after 29 years under Mubarak – Mubarak senior! I dedicate this article to the youth of the April 6 movement, who are going to hold a parallel conference to the annual conference of the National Democratic Party (NDP) at the end of this month.

Egypt lives in a chaos of “reversed” selections. The best items are expelled out and the worst items are kept in. Hypocrites and corrupt members are taken to the top.

There is a case of doubled general failure every where. “Zero” has become the slogan of the current phase of Egyptian history, in all fields.

High prices of basic commodities and various costs of living are exaggerated in a most unprecedented way in history!

More than half of the Egyptian people live under the poverty line. They cannot earn their daily living.

Public health is deteriorating daily thanks to the pesticides, poisoned substances in the air and water, corruption, poverty, pollution and life’s pressures.

Free health services are getting worse. Providing proper medication has become the responsibility, not of the country, but of the patients who can pay for it.

Corruption is controlling every single activity inside the state, from the highest level of the regime to the lowest levels. Systematic stealing is happening everywhere.

Bribes became the only way for citizens to have their rights given, their interests satisfied, and their legal permits taken, and their day moving smoothly.

Nepotism and favoritism have become the ideal gateway to having anything done.

Education is getting worse; both undergraduate and graduate levels.

Parents are doubly burdened by the responsibility of supporting their children with private lessons or parallel education classes, particularly after the appearance of Swine Flu.

Unemployment is killing the ambitions of fresh graduates and young people who have lost their hope in the future for themselves and for their country.

The number of those who commit suicide at a young age is increasing out of their feeling of social injustice.

The marriage age is increasing and unmarried youth and “custom” marriage have become a rampant phenomena of the Egyptian society.

The number of the crimes for immoral behavior, homosexuality and whoredom is increasing.

The social texture is dissolving. The divorce rate in Egyptian society is reaching unexpected and unprecedented levels.

Unjustified violence and crimes of robbery and murder are happening at higher rates.

The traditional values of Egyptian society are vanishing. The morals and behavior of Egyptian society is changing to the negative.

Egyptian youth are seeking illegal migration, despite the high risk, which was not the case before. Hundreds of Egyptian youth died while trying to get out of Egypt through the sea!

Egyptian youth who could not do illegal migration to other countries, made another migration into themselves. Some ran to drugs, some ran to extremism and some ran to the glories of the past.

Egypt has become a big prison; its bars are the impossibility of life with dignity.

Egypt is witnessing the illegal marriage between power and money. Corruption is wasting the credibility of the so-called reformists and their claimed reforms.

Egypt is no longer the gift of the Nile. Egypt has become the gift of the monopoly of everything: monopoly of power, economy, businesses, and rights.

Justice has disappeared on legal and moral levels. The sense of tyranny and injustice is everywhere.

Egypt is going through a general case of a slow death caused by the eternity of officials on their seats, and even worse inheritance of these seats.

The police state is controlling different forms of life in Egypt. Police logic has become the governing rule of all state offices.

Laws were turned into a means to support tyranny, suppression and corruption via a false majority in Parliament.

Hypocrisy and lying are controlling different forms of life here. Beautifying the failure, decorating the ugly, and justifying the wrong are now the official behavior of the state.

The official media in Egypt has become the personal property of the president, his family and his party. This has increased people’s sense of alienation inside their country.

The above symptoms are only one part of the real image of Egypt’s sufferings at the beginning of the 29th year of President Mubarak in office. Those are the symptoms of a number of fatal diseases that include: totalitarianism, individual rule, lack of transparency, lack of power exchanges, lack of judicial independence, election fraud and the monopoly of power.

We should not accept our country to be inherited by those who are still putting their knife on our neck! Now is the time to put an end to this very long and absurd black comedy!


Friday, October 16, 2009

EGYPT: Opposition forms anti-succession coalition


Opposition leaders and political parties have started a new front to challenge the prospect that President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, an untested politician with limited domestic and international experience, will succeed in the 2011 elections.

Talk of succession has gripped the country in recent months as Gamal Mubarak's profile has risen, including a trip to Washington with his 81-year-old father. Gamal is an influential voice in the ruling National Democratic Party. But many Egyptians, who have suffered under the government's economic programs and repressive human rights policies, don't want the presidency kept in the Mubarak family.

The new front took the name "Mayehkomsh" -- Egyptian slang for "You don’t have the right to rule" -- as its slogan. The question, however, remains: How can a disparate group of opposition parties successfully come together to challenge a police state that has pressured them for years with intimidation and arrests?

The anti-succession coalition, initiated by former presidential candidate and founder of El Ghad party, Ayman Nour, gained momentum in a conference held Wednesday among representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya), the Democratic Front, the Egyptian Communist party, and the Justice and Development party.

"This is a campaign to confront this irregular and illogical state, where a president-in-waiting is practicing all the duties of the president already," Nour said at the conference. "Our constitution is for a republic, not a kingdom," he said.

Hassan Nafee, a professor of political science at Cairo University, was chosen to be general coordinator of the campaign. "Fighting the succession is only part of a bigger project targeting the establishment of a democratic ruling system," Nafee said.

Nour, who was runner-up to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's first contested elections, in 2005, received a five-year imprisonment in December of that year after the government accused him of forging signatures in order to establish his party. He was released on health grounds in February this year and has been strongly calling for democratic reforms and fighting succession plans. He can't run in the next elections because of his earlier conviction.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Ayman Nour during the conference. Credit: AFP

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anti-establishment in Egypt: the return of Ayman Nour

The one-time presidential candidate is among dissidents who won't be silenced, despite the government's efforts prior to 2011 elections.

By Theodore May - GlobalPost
Published: October 11, 2009 08:34 ET

CAIRO, Egypt — We had just finished Round One of an intense interview with Ayman Nour. The 2005 runner-up for the Egyptian presidency, who subsequently spent three years in jail, slipped out for a cigarette on the rooftop of his opulent Cairo apartment before heading inside to resume his interview with GlobalPost.

Halfway to his seat, though, he stopped and beckoned me to come close.

“You asked me about torture,” he said, referencing a question I had asked him about his imprisonment. “I didn’t want to talk much about it, because I didn’t want to upset my son.”

But with his son out of the room, Nour rolled up the leg of his well-tailored suit. His ghostly white leg was pocked with deep black-and-blue marks that he said were left by the chains his guards used to bound him.

“And I’m not going to show you my back,” he said in a near-whisper.

In a second, the moment had passed, and Nour sunk back into his chair, ready for more questioning.

Such is life for this most high-profile of Egypt’s political dissidents.

The years 2004 and 2005 represented what the deputy Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam Al-Aryan calls the “spring of semi-democracy,” with Nour running a robust campaign for the presidency — he won 9 percent of the vote — and the Muslim Brotherhood picking up 20 percent of the seats in the lower house of parliament.

Now, though, with parliamentary elections looming next year and presidential elections slated for 2011, the government looks eager to shore up its primacy by clamping down aggressively on political opposition.

But the government is finding foes in every corner of the political spectrum. Islamists, liberal democrats, socialists and more have been fighting for a voice.

While the government has used the legal system to hamper the opposition’s efforts, harassment and detention seem to be the tools of choice.

If arrests are any indication, the Muslim Brotherhood is the government’s biggest worry. Just last week, security forces scooped up 12 members of the group. On Saturday, the government arrested 24 more members. More than 300 now languish in jail, according to Al-Aryan, most charged with belonging to a banned group.

“All Muslim Brotherhood now are waiting for arrest,” he said. “Tens of thousands of people are Muslim Brothers. They live under such tensions … And of course it is a message in preparation for the upcoming elections.”

“Now, for any Muslim Brother, prison is a second home,” quipped Al-Aryan, who says he has been arrested eight times over 30 years, including three times between 2005 and 2007. He claims to have been tortured twice.

The government denies that the arrests are political. And it leans on the judiciary to back up its claim.

"The defendant can say whatever he wants to say to defend himself. That's his constitutional right," said Mohamed Quita, a member of parliament from the ruling party. In reference to Nour, he added: "But the fair judicial system has had its word. And they were convicted of their crimes, which shows it was not political, and these allegations have no basis in truth."

The government also denies the torture charges. According to Quita, his party has visited prisons investigated the charges but "didn't find any trail of torture."

While the Muslim Brotherhood has been around since before the founding of the Republic of Egypt, the government has had to start dealing with a new threat: bloggers.

The blogosphere in Egypt first became politicized on a massive scale in the wake of political unrest in 2005. Since then, their numbers have grown by the tens of thousands.

Unlike in some countries, the security forces, led by the Interior Ministry’s cyber crime division, don’t shut down websites critical of the government. They go after the writers.

“I would say this is the pattern,” said Hossam el-Hamalawy, one of Egypt’s most prominent bloggers. “It’s either phone up, threaten them, [or] stop them at the airport when they come. But we didn’t reach the level of, say, Tunisia,” where the government cracks down aggressively, banning people from the web or hacking their websites.

Many of these bloggers, though, are also street activists, protesting various government practices. It is in this context that many of them are arrested. El-Hamalawy is a socialist whose blog takes aim at the government’s labor practices. He says he was arrested and tortured in 2000 (before he started his blog) for tearing down the American flag that flew over the American University in Cairo. He has been arrested twice subsequently.

Part of the threat that bloggers pose to the government, he believes, is that they break stories of political or military abuse that conventional newspapers won’t.

He added that local print reporters have been known to feed controversial stories to bloggers so that they can report on the blog coverage instead of on the story itself.

Despite the crackdown, it’s remarkable that many of these political dissidents, who hail from all ends of the political spectrum, continue to lead life in the public eye.

El-Hamalawy serves as an editor at one of the country’s pre-eminent newspapers.

Al-Aryan works out of his office at the doctor’s syndicate in downtown.

Nour, who was unexpectedly released from jail early this year, has launched a grassroots political campaign called “Knocking on Doors.” As leader of the Ghad party, he goes door to door across the country, extolling the virtues of liberal democracy.

If his group tries to set up formal events, he says, security forces shut them down ahead of time. But they still let him go door to door and spread his message quietly.

“We can’t hold conferences,” he said. “We can’t own any newspapers or visual media. We are prevented from using any means of communications. The only right that they can’t prevent us from doing is our right to walk on our feet in the streets.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ayman Nour : Succession vs. the ‘black room’

Ayman Nour

On Wednesday, October 14, a group of sincere activists and opposition leaders shall launch the “Egyptian Campaign against Presidential Succession.” One of the main demands to be announced at the founding conference is establishing a “white room” in an attempt to confront the “black room,” which works, since 2005, on pushing forward the presidential succession process from Mubarak senior to Mubarak junior. The white room shall coordinate between specialized legal and political independent committees to prevent turning this nightmare into reality.

The “black room” is the symbolic name of the very limited group working on ensuring Gamal Mubarak’s succession to his father as the next president of Egypt. It is composed of only five – highly trusted – members. None of them is a civil or military ministerial official. They are Gamal Mubarak himself, two of his close friends, a reputable media figure and a businessman, who is also a member of Parliament. It is a closed group; new members are not accepted.

The black room started in 2005, upon a suggestion by the “reputable media figure” to gather once per month for meditation, thinking and brainstorming. In those meetings, they used to discuss weaknesses and strengths of passing the presidency to Gamal and plan how to kill facts and rumors, which might negatively affect Gamal’s opportunities.

Immediately before the beginning of 2007, the tasks of the group had changed completely in terms of their nature, scope and target. Subsequently, the black room had to meet once per week and sometimes on a daily basis, even if Gamal himself was not available. The most serious change here is the change of the nature of the assigned tasks of the group. One of those tasks, for instance, was identifying the articles of the Constitution to be amended and properly tailored to fit into their plans. By the end of 2006, President Mubarak submitted a request to Parliament to approve the suggested amendments on 34 articles of the constitution.

The black room was primarily concerned with amending article 76 in a way that limits the selection of the candidate from the National Democratic Party to the members of the General Secretariat who have served for at least one year. The main purpose of this amendment was avoiding expected pressures by newly added members in case of the absence of the president.

Another constitutional article perfectly amended by the black room was article 84, which regulates the rules of the transitional period after the unexpected vacancy of the presidency. The amended article 84 prohibits the temporary president from passing amendments to the constitution during the transitional period. Certainly, this is meant to enhance the restrictions imposed by the amended article 76. The amendments of those two particular articles are meant to ensure making Gamal Mubarak the one and only candidate of the National Democratic Party and limit the opportunities of his rivals from outside NDP.

On another level, the black room is working on drying the resources threatening Gamal Mubarak’s opportunities to succeed his father as the president of Egypt. They simply weaken the names of expected rivals, whether they are members of the current regime, opposition leaders, or public figures. Their tool in this regard is a “black” newspaper supported by the black room and working according to its “black” agenda. In addition, they sometimes burden those rivals by complicated duties that might lead to distorting their image in the public and losing their popularity. Fortunately, the black room failed in achieving those ill-conceived goals; their black plans lead to the opposite results.

Nevertheless, the biggest failure of the black room is the fact that Gamal Mubarak is already losing his popularity day after day. He was absolutely rejected by different social segments and state circles, which clarified this in obvious messages during the past few months. That pushed the black room – recently – to change their priority to a naïve campaign to polish Gamal Mubarak’s image, before the coming NDP conference in November.

After losing a great deal of what they gained over the past few years, the black room realized that the only way for succession is pressuring President Mubarak to step down and leave the presidential seat for his son. They are not ready to take the risk of waiting till the death of the President and then trying other options, which everyone is quite confident are not going to work.

The latest and probably strangest decision of the black room is instructing the close friends of Gamal Mubarak not to deal with him in an informal way. They are, simply, cutting the few last worn-out strings between Gamal and the people.